Council examines city services budgets

Warren City Council looked at city service budgets such as police, fire and building and codes during its budget workshop on Thursday.

City Police Chief Ray Zydonik led council through the police department and parking enforcement budgets.

He began with the police budget.

“No special commissions this year,” Zydonik said. “We know things are getting tight and we’re just trying to maintain.”

Zydonik did note two officers would be leaving and have to be replaced.

City Manager Nancy Freenock said she would like to see thepurchase of truck scales for the department authorized.

Zydonik said the scales, which would cost approximately $7,000, would reduce road wear and generate revenue through fines. He noted the $7,000 would be recouped fairly quickly through truck fines for breaking weight restrictions on both the type of vehicle they were driving and for exceeding posted road weight limits.

Under the parking enforcement budget, Zydonik announced on-street revenue for meters on Second Avenue came in higher than expected.

Councilman John Lewis recalled a proposal in a previous year to install 90 meters.

“I really suggest that we look, as a council, at installing the new meters on an expanded basis downtown,” he said.

The statement led to a discussion over the pros and cons of individual space meters and multi-space meters.

City staff and council will continue to evaluate the possibility.

Mayor Mark Phillips asked about looking into providing a parking enforcement holiday for a period around Christmas.

Council also noted parking enforcement costs exceed revenues by approximately $42,000

“Perhaps the fines are not reflecting the costs of enforcement,” Councilman Sam Harvey said. “This is presenting, as a service, something that should be revenue neutral.”

Zydonik said it would be council’s choice whether to examine parking fines.

City Fire Department Chief Sam Pascuzzi took over as council worked through the fire department budget.

“This budget maintains programs and expands in a few areas that I think are achievable,” Pascuzzi said.

He noted revenue is up approximately $40,000, but expenditures have increased by approximately $90,000.

“So we need about $50,000,” he noted.

He pointed out a department fire engine and an ambulance are aging, but said he didn’t foresee needing replacement yet.

“I don’t think they’ll go out of service in 2014,” Pascuzzi noted.

He also reported he had budgeted for testing of the department’s ladder truck.

“I don’t expect anything,” he cautioned, “but repairs to that can be expensive.”

He noted he also budgeted for a regular replacement schedule for turnout gear.

Harvey noted the department projects approximately 200 mutual aid calls, which it is required to respond to if available by law, and asked Pascuzzi how many such calls the department anticipated making in return.

Pascuzzi noted he expects the department will respond to approximately a half dozen mutual aid calls.

“So we’re subsidizing,” Harvey noted.

Pascuzzi noted a large portion of mutual aid calls are for ambulance service and they are required by law to respond.

“Would you say that that’s a disincentive for other municipalities to have ambulance?” Councilman Howard Ferguson asked.

Pascuzzi explained to council the department does bill for such calls.

He also noted local departments are looking at regional issues to reduce costs and he is looking at eventual cost issues resultant from the department’s status as a professional department surrounded by volunteer departments.

City Codes Officer Alan Gustafson led council through the building and codes budget.

“There’s really no change (from last year),” Gustafson said. “The only thing we did change slightly is through blighted property… just because so few houses are going through blighted property right now.”

He pointed out the budget now includes health inspections.

Gustafson noted increased expenses in this year’s budget stemmed from that addition, the moving of legal services into each department’s budget and from clerical work.

He also reported the department would still like to have sidewalk and rental inspection programs.

Gustafson announced revenue for the year was approximately $60,000 over projections and, as a result, he estimated next year’s revenues slightly higher than he would have.

Freenock noted which budget City Building Code Official and PArks and Recreation Director Mary Ann Nau’s salary is drawn from has been adjusted to more closely match the time she is spending in the capacity of each of her titles. The building and code budget now provides 60 percent of Nau’s salary while the parks and recreation budget provides 40 percent.